The Magic of Books (a guest post)
“Books are a uniquely portable kind of magic.” –Stephen King
Today’s post is courtesy of Kylie of Further Up and Further In. Read her musings, dreams, and thoughts on gutting deer by clicking the link, or follow her on twitter as @lovehascome. >> http://www.furtherup-and-furtherin.blogspot.com/
I’m a reader, and I’m a writer. Sometimes I wonder if those things aren’t intertwined. I started reading when I was three-years-old and I’ve had an irrevocable love of words ever since. I wrote my first “book” when I was very young, after being steeped in the classics like Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
It’s funny how words work and how potent stories are. It’s funny how they seep into our subconscious and remain with us forever. It’s funny how, by reading stories, we are inspired to write our own.
At a writing workshop I attended online earlier this month, Caleb Breakey gave me a genius piece of writing advice. His advice was, “Trust the soup.” What this basically means is, trust your subconscious, because it’s a lot more powerful than you realize. I thought this was brilliant, and I’ve taken it a little farther than that to use for this article. Think of it this way: you have a soup of words and ideas in your brain. These concepts are taken from everything—from the movies you watch, to the things you see on the Internet, to the books you read. The good ones really stick with you, as Samwise Gamgee says in his memorable speech at the end of The Two Towers, when he and Frodo Baggins feel like giving up on their journey.
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.”
I’ve heard it said many times that in order to be a good writer, you must read good literature. I haven’t really understood what that meant, but I think I’m starting to. Now let’s go back to the point I brought up earlier—imagine your mind, your subconscious, as a great sea of ideas. The words float around in your brain. Could it be that the ones you read end up turning into the ones you write, in one way or another? What if you gather inspiration from them and make them your own? Could it be that if you read good words, inspiring words, your writing will be the better for it?
What if your inspiration is low simply when you haven’t read a good book for a while? Think about it as a gas tank. If your gas is low or gone completely, you aren’t going anywhere. Perhaps when your word and inspiration tank is low, it’s the same way. A couple of years ago I was hitting a wall when it came to my writing. My friend asked if I’d been reading lately, and I hadn’t been. She said that usually reading helps inspire her to keep writing. So I picked up a book, and guess what? It worked.
The stories you read are important. So are the ones you write. Either way, stories have incredible potency. They are a “uniquely portable kind of magic,” as Stephen King says. Stories have the power to inspire, to encourage, to uplift.
Don’t spend your time on books that you don’t like. Read what you love, what you want to read. Write what you love, what you want to write. Those stories are there beneath the surface, just waiting to spill out of your fingertips. You just have to find them.
Words are a precious gift—both the ones you read, and the ones you write.
Don’t waste them.